This is a Guest Post from Perry Warren of Maselli Warren, PC.
One of the most common questions our lawyers get from clients going through their divorce is, “how much do I stand to lose?” Basically, the concern relates to marital property and how much the court may (or may not) require them to carve up with their soon-to-be ex spouse. For those with high value real property assets, including a business, the division of their property could result in dissolution of companies and significant financial difficulty. That’s why it’s important to understand what is at stake before making the first move.
States with Marital Property Laws
Around the country, states that consider assets acquired over the course of a marriage as ‘community property’ usually require those items be divided as equitably as possible when the couple splits for good. These states, including Arizona, don’t just consider marital assets to be homes or automobiles, but also pension funds, income, jewelry, bank accounts, and home furniture. Yes, the court can legally split your retirement fund in half.
If your spouse wants to be vindictive by trying to ruin your business in the divorce, don’t worry – your legal team may be able to force the liquidation of all that expensive jewelry you bought for her. And vice versa. The point is remaining as friendly as possible through the process allows both people to emerge with their finances in as good a shape as is possible.
Separate Property from the Marriage
Not all property obtained during the marriage is community property during a marriage’s dissolution. Items, including money, that you receive as gifts during your marriage aren’t divisible in divorce. The court will require you show proof that the property or item in question is a gift. In addition, any property you owned prior to your marriage is exempt from the proceedings, providing that you can also show the court proof that you owned it before tying the knot.
By Equitable We Don’t Mean Equal
When our lawyers say ‘equitable’ in dividing marital property, we don’t necessarily mean equal. The court may decide that your spouse has a 70 percent stake in your marital home because they paid that portion of the mortgage. It’s only fair that they take away what they put in, though another judge might see the situation differently. One way to remove the wild card approach to asset dividing is to draw up – in cooperation with your legal teams – a settlement agreement. This document is a prearranged divvying up of property that both you and your ex spouse agrees upon before proceeding to court. Judges like these contracts because they streamline the process, which also makes finalizing your divorce much easier than if you both go into the proceedings with hot heads and cold hearts.
Divorce is never without emotion, but it doesn’t need to drag on and hinder your emotional and financial recovery. Hiring skilled divorced lawyers with a track record of success can turn a grief stricken moment into a positive, allowing you and those you love to close this chapter of your life and start fresh.
Perry Warren is a NJ bankruptcy attorney based out of Princeton. Perry is certified as a civil trial attorney by the Supreme Court of New Jersey and has tried and litigated substantial cases throughout New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.
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